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How Translation Helps You Get to Grips With Another Language

In recent years, translation has gone out of fashion as a way to learn a new language. A lot of people say that it’s a bad way to learn because it keeps you thinking in your mother tongue, rather than in the target language. They often say that it’s better to learn the way that children do, through immersion. Spend as much time as possible with only your target language and you’ll pick it up a lot faster.

It’s true that immersing yourself in another language is a great way to learn a new language quickly. The problem with only using this approach, though, is that your brain isn’t like a baby’s anymore! You already know a language, you already use grammar, and you already use your vocabulary to talk about complex ideas.

This means that you can’t help comparing a new language to your own. You do it naturally.

It also means that the kind of things you want to talk about now aren’t the same things as when you first learned your own language. When you were a baby, learning new words was how you began to understand the world around you. When you learn a second language, you are trying to communicate about things you (probably) already know or understand. It’s just not the same.

The fact that you already understand how language works doesn’t need to be a bad thing, though! It just means you have other ways to learn. One of those ways is translation.

When you translate a sentence from another language into your own, you have to think very carefully about what every word means, the order it is in, and why it’s like that. It’s very unusual to be able to translate something word for word from another language into your own – usually, you have to move things around, change the tense or structure, or think of the nearest possible word that means something similar.

As you translate, you notice the syntax and grammar of your own language in ways you might not have thought about before. You pay attention to the things that make a language unique and what can’t be directly translated.

When you translate from your native language into another language, things get even more interesting. By forcing yourself to express a particular idea in a particular way, you really push yourself to think in your new language. You can’t get around it by relying on “easy” vocabulary or grammar. It’s a great challenge!

As you can see here, doing translation exercises isn’t just about thinking of a word in your own language and then translating it in your head. That wouldn’t be very helpful for your learning. Instead, it’s about paying close attention to the shape of your target language and how it’s different to your own, so that you can teach yourself to “think” in the new language.

Of course, it helps if you practise translating things you want to know about! Choose short texts or extracts of around 100-300 words on a subject that interests you. tart by translating from your target language into your native tongue and build up to translating in the other direction.

Don’t make it too easy for yourself, either. Push yourself to translate things that you find quite difficult. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you improve!

Ready for the next language-learning challenge? Check out our range of courses at www.Eurocentres.com